on Ephesians 6 :4
Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath - Avoid all severity; this will hurt your own souls, and do them no good; on the contrary, if punished with severity or cruelty, they will be only hardened and made desperate in their sins. Cruel parents generally have bad children. He who corrects his children according to God and reason will feel every blow on his own heart more sensibly than his child feels it on his body. Parents are called to correct; not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.
Bring them up, etc - Εκτρεφετε αυτα εν παιδειᾳ και νουθεσια Κυριου· literally, Nourish them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The mind is to be nourished with wholesome discipline and instruction, as the body is with proper food. Παιδεια, discipline, may refer to all that knowledge which is proper for children, including elementary principles and rules for behavior, etc. Νουθεσια, instruction, may imply whatever is necessary to form the mind; to touch, regulate, and purify the passions; and necessarily includes the whole of religion. Both these should be administered in the Lord - according to his will and word, and in reference to his eternal glory. All the important lessons and doctrines being derived from his revelation, therefore they are called the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
on Ephesians 6 :4
And ye fathers - A command addressed particularly to "fathers," because they are at the head of the family, and its government is especially committed to them. The object of the apostle here is, to show parents that their commands should be such that they can be easily obeyed, or such as are entirely reasonable and proper. If children are required to "obey," it is but reasonable that the commands of the parent should be such that they can be obeyed, or such that the child shall not be discouraged in his attempt to obey. This statement is in accordance with what he had said Ephesians 5:22-25 of the relation of husband and wife. It was the duty of the wife to obey - but it was the corresponding duty of the husband to manifest such a character that it would be pleasant to yield obedience - so to love her, that his known wish would be law to her. In like manner it is the duty of children to obey a parent; but it is the duty of a parent to exhibit such a character, and to maintain such a government, that it would be proper for the child to obey; to command nothing that is unreasonable or improper, but to train up his children in the ways of virtue and pure religion.
Provoke not your children to wrath - That is, by unreasonable commands; by needless severity; by the manifestation of anger. So govern them, and so punish them - if punishment is necessary - that they shall not lose their confidence in you, but shall love you. The apostle here has hit on the very danger to which parents are most exposed in the government of their children. It is that of souring their temper; of making them feel that the parent is under the influence of anger, and that it is right for them to be so too. This is done:
(1) when the commands of a parent are unreasonable and severe. The spirit of a child then becomes irritated, and he is "discouraged;" Colossians 3:21.
(2) when a parent is evidently "excited" when he punishes a child. The child then feels:
(a) that if his "father" is angry, it is not wrong for him to be angry; and,
(b) the very fact of anger in a parent kindles anger in his bosom - just as it does when two men are contending.
If he submits in the case, it is only because the parent is the "strongest," not because he is "right," and the child cherishes "anger," while he yields to power. There is no principle of parental government more important than that a father should command his own temper when he inflicts punishment. He should punish a child not because he is "angry," but because it is "right;" not because it has become a matter of "personal contest," but because God requires that he should do it, and the welfare of the child demands it. The moment when a child seem that a parent punishes him under the influence of anger, that moment the child will be likely to be angry too - and his anger will be as proper as that of the parent. And yet, how often is punishment inflicted in this manner! And how often does the child feel that the parent punished him simply because he was the "strongest," not because it was "right;" and how often is the mind of a child left with a strong conviction that wrong has been done him by the punishment which he has received, rather than with repentance for the wrong that he has himself done.
But bring them up - Place them under such discipline and instruction that they shall become acquainted with the Lord.
In the nurture - ἐν παιδεία en paideia. The word used here means "training of a child;" hence education, instruction, discipline. Here it means that they are to train up their children in such a manner as the Lord approves; that is, they are to educate them for virtue and religion.
And admonition - The word used here - νουθεσία nouthesia means literally, "a putting in mind," then warning, admonition, instruction. The sense here is, that they were to put them in mind of the Lord - of his existence, perfections, law, and claims on their hearts and lives. This command is positive, and is in accordance with all the requirements of the Bible on the subject. No one can doubt that the Bible enjoins on parents the duty of endeavoring to train up their children in the ways of religion, and of making it the grand purpose of this life to prepare them for heaven. It has been often objected that children should be left on religious subjects to form their own opinions when they are able to judge for themselves. Infidels and irreligious people always oppose or neglect the duty here enjoined; and the plea commonly is, that to teach religion to children is to make them prejudiced; to destroy their independence of mind; and to prevent their judging as impartially on so important a subject as they ought to. In reply to this, and in defense of the requirements of the Bible on the subject, we may remark:
(1) That to suffer a child to grow up without any instruction in religion, is about the same as to suffer a garden to lie without any culture. Such a garden would soon be overrun with weeds, and briars, and thorns - but not sooner, or more certainly, than the mind of a child would.
(2) people do instruct their children in a great many things, and why should they not in religion? They teach them how to behave in company; the art of farming; the way to make or use tools; how to make money; how to avoid the arts of the cunning seducer. But why should it not be said that all this tends to destroy their independence, and to make them prejudiced? Why not leave their minds open and free, and suffer them to form their own judgments about farming and the mechanic arts when their minds are matured?
(3) people do inculcate their own sentiments in religion. An infidel is not usually "very" anxious to conceal his views from his children. People teach by example; by incidental remarks; by the "neglect" of that which they regard as of no value. A man who does not pray, is teaching his children not to pray; he who neglects the public worship of God, is teaching his children to neglect it; he who does not read the Bible, is teaching his children not to read it. Such is the constitution of things, that it is impossible for a parent not to inculcate his own religious views on his children. Since this is so, all that the Bible requires is, that his instructions should be right.
(4) to inculcate the truths of religion is not to make the mind narrow, prejudiced, and indisposed to perceive the truth. Religion makes the mind candid, conscientious, open to conviction, ready to follow the truth. Superstition, bigotry, infidelity, and "all" error and falsehood, make the mind narrow and prejudiced.
on Ephesians 6 :4
6:4 And, ye fathers - Mothers are included; but fathers are named, as being more apt to be stern and severe. Provoke not your children to wrath - Do not needlessly fret or exasperate them. But bring them up - With all tenderness and mildness. In the instruction and discipline of the Lord - Both in Christian knowledge and practice.